Country musician Cal Smith passed away last Thursday in Branson, Missouri. He was 81.
Born as Calvin Grand Shofner in Gans, Oklahoma, Smith was most well-known for his three No.1 country hits – “The Lord Knows I’m Drinking” (1973), “Country Bumpkin” (1974) and “It’s Time To Pay the Fiddler” (1975).
Smith moved to San Jose, California at an early age and became a popular disc jockey prior to joining Ernest Tubb’s Texas Troubadours as a rhythm guitarist from 1962 to 1968.
Smith’s version of Bill Anderson’s “The Lord Knows I’m Drinking” became a No.1 country hit for Decca Records in 1973. The next year, he scored another No.1 hit with “Country Bumpkin”, which became the Country Music Association’s song and single of the year and the Academy of Country Music’s song of the year.
For several years, Garth Brooks sang “Country Bumpkin” during sound checks, calling Smith’s recording of the song his favorite country single. In 1994, Smith presented Brooks with his Academy of Country Music Award for the song, which Brooks would display in his home.
Smith had another No.1 hit in 1975 with “It’s Time to Pay the Fiddler” and several Top 20 hits with “I’ve Found Someone of My Own” (1972), “Between Lust and Watching TV” (1974), “She Talked a Lot About Texas and Jason’s Farm” (1975), and “I Just Came Home to Count the Memories’ (1977).
Smith also figured into Loretta Lynn’s Grammy-grabbing new-century career revival. Lynn’s album returned her to mainstream prominence, and single Portland, Oregon was a duet between Lynn and rocker/producer Jack White. That song was spurred by a Portland night where she and Smith ordered drinks at a Holiday Inn.
According to Loretta Lynn’s memoir, Still Woman Enough, Smith made a drink suggestion while he and Lynn drank together at a Holiday Inn in Portland Oregon. The drink suggestion inspired the opening lyrics to her Grammy-winning duet with Jack White, “Portland, Oregon”.
“Well, Portland, Oregon, and sloe gin fizz / If that ain’t love than tell me what is.”
Smith released his last album, Stories of Life by Cal Smith, in 1986.